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Takeaways: Alex Smith, Kareem Hunt pace Chiefs' win

There will be no 19-0 talk in New England this time. The pining for Patrick Mahomes at quarterback in Kansas City can be put on hold, too.

The Chiefs' 42-27 victory in Foxborough to kick off the NFL season Thursday night was a gift to NFL fans looking for surprise in a top-heavy league. One fantastic performance by the Chiefs helped upend so many lazy storylines that built throughout the offseason. Let us count the ways:

  1. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith knows the rap on him. He can't throw deep. He pilots a station-to-station offense that is more efficient than exciting. One game doesn't erase a career's worth of evidence, but it's hard to say this Chiefs offense is still boring under Smith. Coach Andy Reid pilots a creative offense which borrows liberally from the spread concepts Smith used to run in college. He wound up completing 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first time a Bill Belichick-coached team has ever given up two touchdown passes over 75 yards in the same game.

Smith benefited from a coverage bust and the incredible talent of his playmakers Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, but that talent isn't going anywhere. If the Chiefs can put up 42 points during a quiet night from tight end Travis Kelce, they are going to be difficult to stop.

  1. Hunt gained 246 yards from scrimmage, more than any player in NFL history since the 1970 merger. It's tempting to call him a revelation, but the third-round rookie has consistently been touted by draftniks and analytics wonks as a future star. (Pro Football Focus ranked him No. 1 among all college running backs last season, and it's easy to see why.) Despite fumbling on his first career snap, Hunt ran with decisiveness and aggression. He gained a lot of his 147 rushing yards after contact and showed the ability to make defenders miss in the hole.

"He put us on his back tonight. He played like a veteran," Smith told NBC's Michele Tafoya after the game.

The Chiefs' offensive line beat up a ragged Patriots front seven all night and Hunt beat brand-new Patriots defensive end Cassius Marsh for a 78-yard touchdown on a beautiful route. Hunt was elevated to the starting job after an injury to starter Spencer Ware, which brings me to another lazy narrative busted Thursday night.

  1. So much for the notion that Tom Brady wouldn't truly miss his most trusted receiver Julian Edelman. The injuries to Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell, who was placed on injured reserve Thursday, eroded the Patriots' depth at wideout, forcing the team to play Danny Amendola more than the team would like. Amendola left the game in the second half with a head injury, but even before that the absence of Edelman was obvious. Amendola is a useful role player but was unable to make a few plays that normally Edelman would handle. New Patriots wideout Brandin Cooks is now thrust into the No. 1 role and the team had less flexibility with their formations because of the wide receiver injuries.
  1. Injuries were a huge part of the story Thursday night. The Chiefs' victory is bittersweet because they lost their defensive leader. Reid said after the game that safety Eric Berrysuffered a potential Achilles tendon tear. The team will find out more about the injury Friday. "I don't think it's positive," Reid said. After missing the entire preseason, Berry was on the field for all 69 plays before his injury. The Chiefs likely don't win this game without Berry, who suffered the injury late in the fourth quarter. He had a key fourth-down run stop to end one drive, one of two Patriots fourth-down runs in short yardage that failed. Berry also shut down Rob Gronkowski in coverage, holding him to 33 yards receiving. Berry is such a leader for this team that he still broke down the team's win in the locker room after the game, not allowing his injury to get in the way of the Chiefs' well-earned celebration.
  1. With Berry hurt, outside linebacker Justin Houston is now undeniably the best defender on the Chiefs. He appeared to have his pre-injury mojo back with two sacks, four QB hits, two tackles for loss and a number of key plays in the running game.
  1. The 19-0 talk was always silly for a variety of reasons ranging from the Patriots' schedule to potential injuries to, well, the reality that football games are unpredictable. The Patriots lost linebacker Dont'a Hightower to a knee injury in the second half, which contributed to giving up 21 fourth quarter points. He could be the most irreplaceable player on a Patriots front seven already missing juice. The team's lack of pass-rush talent showed up throughout the night, with the three sacks Smith took being highly misleading.

New England, the ultimate game plan team, was limited in what it could call on both sides of the ball because it appeared to have too many new players to handle the entire playbook. Many of the pickups over the offseason look great on paper, but will take time to get up to speed in Belichick's system. The Patriots' defense was forced to play a safety (Jordan Richards) at linebacker late in the game. One touchdown came with newly acquired defensive end Cassius Marsh in coverage. Another came when cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who had an otherwise strong night, appearing to get mixed up on a defensive play call. The Patriots gave up more points and yards than any other game in the Bill Belichick era. They are very much a work in progress.

  1. The Patriots have a timing offense and Brady was out of rhythm after a quick start in the hurry up offense. Many of his passes sailed high and he completed only 16 of 36 passes, a lower percentage than any start last season. His four fourth quarter drives were reminiscent of the Falcons' fourth quarter in the Super Bowl: two first downs, three punts and a turnover on downs.

It won't be hard for Belichick to sell his annual message that it's a new season and the team isn't "defending" any title because this is a much different team than the one that was bathed in confetti.

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